WIRED asked me who I think are the 10 Hottest startups in France.

Mar 25, 2014
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Every year, WIRED puts together a list of the fastest growing startups in Europe, reporting on the hottest startups in each of the European markets. As WIRED doesn’t cover the European tech scene in depth, it often reaches out to country experts to get recommendations and nominations. For the second year, I proposed my favorite startups to the London publication, looking at companies large & small who had done amazing things in the last 12 months.

My criteria for such recommendations are always quite vast. Size doesn’t matter to me, nor revenue nor age of the company – what I like to see are actions & performances that make me go “Oh shit” – pretty simple, right? In addition to making nominations, I always provide a brief synopsis of the ‘oh shit’ factor that puts them on my list – this year, I wanted to share my selections and reasoning:

France = AdTech Domination

I probably would have selected Ebuzzing (now Ebuzzing and Teads) for this list regardless of their recent news; however, the fact that they just acquired merged Teads this week certainly helps. The startup is set to do €100 Million in revenue in 2014, and they are looking at a NASDAQ IPO in 2015. Since last October, I’ve been looking for the next Criteo, which I predicted would come from France – the strongest candidate today is Ebuzzing, and I look forward to seeing what they do in the next 12 months.

Ezakus is to pre-targeting what Criteo is to re-targeting – concretely that means that, where Criteo is good at helping you chase down existing leads that slip away, Ezakus helps you advertise to new ones, by building profiles on typical users that are most likely in your market segment. Their conversion rates are competitive, and their recent integration with MotionLead has got me quite excited. They’re still a few years out from being dominant, but their technology is strong, and their CEO, Christophe Camborde, is even stronger.

If I say Appsfire, I’m not sure you instantly think “AdTech,” but after they pivot away from their moderately successful discovery app to providing innovative mobile app ad formats in order to help mobile app developers monetize, I quickly changed the way I looked at them. They currently have 3 Mobile App ad formats - Sushi, Ura Maki & Sashimi - all three of which are beautiful ads, requiring no work from publishers to advertisers (they pull in existing media from the advertiser’s app store page), and interrupt the user experience as little as possible.

Flexing those Big Data Muscles

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Algolia, and I’m not the only one. They’re currently in the Silicon Valley after being accepted for Y-Combinator, something they didn’t do for funding, as they raised $1.5 Million from Alven Capital, Point Nine Capital & Index Ventures just six months ago. Founded by two former Exalead engineers, they are the epitome of the “Exalead Mafia,” building amazing Search as a Service technology. I’m not just a fan, but a user – they are the primary engine of our most recent project, Rude List, which is launching soon.

Talend is perhaps one of the most soft-spoken startups in France; however, a $40 Million Series D speaks volumes, and their continued growth in Big Data integration has been incredible – and, of course, a great example of how France does Big Data well.

Cloud Business Intelligence might not get you hot, but BIME Analytics has certainly got investors & businesses excited – they raised a Series B and launched a Kansas City-based US headquarters earlier this year, and they are on Gartner’s short list for top Cloud BI tools. CEO Rachel Delacour is omnipresent, hustling at every enterprise cloud conference on the market, and doing a great job spreading the BIME brand. I’m thinking acquisition in the next 18 months by a major player, but Rachel certainly has what it takes to take the company to IPO – she’s got CEO written all over.

Who says France can’t do Consumer products?

It’s no secret either that I’m a fan of Blablacar, but I keep having more reasons to love them. I just visited their new offices this week, which are in the same building as Criteo. They recently launched in Ukraine & Russia, and their CEO is a Stanford Alumnus - not to mention the fact that they now have over 6 Million registered members, and have managed to take the same market share as German competitor Carpooling.com in Carpooling’s home turf. The company hasn’t raised money since January 2012, when it raised $10 Million from Accel and its original investors ISAI, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they raised a new round in 2014, now that Europe is all but complete (Switzerland, Hungary, Turkey and a few other markets have yet to be launched).

If you’re in the US, you might want to start paying attention to Deezer, as all the rumors point to them launching there – the only market they aren’t present in – later this year. The online music streaming service has closed the gap on Spotify, and their October product overhaul was good enough to convert me from Spotify to Deezer.

France can do consumer mobile apps, and Mindie‘s enormous Silicon Valley fundraising 3 months after launching is the perfect example. Branding themselves as MTV for Mobile, they’ve got a long way to go to get to the stickiness level of their social media counterparts; however, the product is novel, the team is creative, and they’ve been given a chance to make a dent in the social media/messaging landscape.

My other favorite consumer mobile app is eDJing, though I can’t claim to be a great eDJ. One of the most popular iPad apps in its category (10+ Million downloads as of last September), the company raised $2.5 Million and added Deezer’s co-founder to its board. Back in September, co-founder Jean-Baptiste Hironde demo-ed some cool integrations into real DJ equipment that they were working on, going beyond iPad – but what has really been their success is their ability to leverage online Music API’s and monetize them, a feat that not many can claim.